It is bad enough to hear someone boasting about his past achievements. What is truly repulsive is hearing someone boasting about the future achievements he thinks he is going to have, as Donald Trump does repeatedly.
12/27/15. Michigan Psychological Association Newsletter. December 2015
My take on the Great Courses:
Once a month I eagerly wait for the catalogue of the great courses. When I open the thick, slick magazine
advertising these amazing courses I am never disappointed.
Immediately, I notice I can save 70% on 110 courses offered that range from “The Search for Exoplanets: What
Astronomers Know” to “Critical Business Skills for Success.”
By taking advantage of these great offers, my half-hour commute to and from work turns into an educational
adventure, listening to CDs of renowned and award-winning professors lecture about science, history, religion,
philosophy, music, and math.
The following is a sample of some of the great courses offered in the latest catalog:
• Darwin and
Unnatural Selection: The Coming Extinction of Book Shelves
The Growing Threat of Capitalism When It Becomes Capitalized
Four Laws of Thurman’s Dynamics
Integrating Mind, Body, and Shoes
The Everyday Guide to Whining: A Tour Through the Valley of the Naps
Understanding the Relations and Implications between the Nose and Bisexuality
Understanding the Implications of the Higgs-Bosom Discovery for the Modern Marriage
The Art of Persuasion: Half-Truths and Whole-Lies
Understanding Why Small People Have Deep Roots: A Short Introduction to Genealogy
Sex, the Big Bang, and Arguing
A Biopsychosocial Approach to Understanding How and When to Tell a Highway it is Adopted.
12/27/15. On "The Evolution of Everything," "The Fatal Conceit," "The Wealth of Nations," and more. On why it is so hard to understand the emergence of order from spontaneity, free choice, and bottom-up organization.
From the Nobel Prize lec-
ture by Svetlana Alexievich,
recipient of the 2015 award in
literature, in Stockholm Dec. 7:
[Soviet-era Russian author]
Varlam Shalamov once wrote:
"I was a participant in the
colossal battle, a battle that
was lost, for the genuine re-
newal of humanity." I recon-
struct the history of that bat-
tle, its victories and its
defeats. The history of how
people wanted to build the
Heavenly Kingdom on earth.
Paradise! The City of the Sun!
In the end, all that remained
was a sea of blood, millions
of ruined human lives. There
was a time, however, when no
political idea of the 20th cen-
tury was comparable to com-
munism (or the October
Revolution as its symbol), a
time when nothing attracted
Western intellectuals and
people all around the world
more powerfully or emotion-
ally. Raymond Aron called the
Russian Revolution the
"opium of intellectuals." But
the idea of communism is at
least two thousand years old.
We can find it in Plato's
teachings about an ideal, cor-
rect state; in Aristophanes'
dreams about a time when
"everything will belong to
everyone." . . . In Thomas
More and Tommaso Campan-
ella ... Later in Saint-Simon,
Fourier and Robert Owen.
There is something in the
Russian spirit that compels it
to try to turn these dreams
Twenty years ago, we bid
farewell to the "Red Empire"
of the Soviets with curses
and tears. We can now look
at that past more calmly, as
an historical experiment.
This is important,
arguments about : socialism
have not died down. A new
generation has grown up
with a different picture of
the world, but many young
people are reading Marx and
Lenin again. In Russian
towns there are new muse-
ums dedicated to Stalin, and
new monuments have been
erected to him.
The "Red Empire" is gone,
but the "Red Man," homo sovieticus,
My father died recently.
He believed in communism to
the end. He kept his party
membership card. I can't
bring myself to use the word
"sovok," that derogatory epi-
thet for the Soviet mentality,
because then I would have to
apply it my father and others
close to me, my friends. They
all come from the same
place-socialism. There are
many idealists among them.
Romantics. Today they are
sometimes called slavery ro-
mantics. Slaves of utopia.
"...I certainly have my own fears of annihilation. But I also know that I had no existence for the 13.8 billion years that the universe existed before my birth, and I expect the same will be true after my death. The universe is not about me or any other individual; we came and we go as part of a much larger process. More and more I am content with this awareness. We all find our own solutions to the problem death poses. For the foreseeable future, bringing your mind back to life will not be one of them."
This article is a pitiful display of ignorance. It is most
often the physicists who are the vocal atheistic minority among the scientific
community, for physics is perhaps the branch of the physical sciences with the
most amount of assumptions behind it and the one with the least opportunity for
hard experimentation, because of its great expense. It is also these few
scientists who are the most difficult to give up on an idea, they have built
their careers upon; even though, they are often dead wrong. Of course,
there is no way to do the experiment because of the high cost or impossible
circumstance. The high-energy physics experiment of late is the
best example in the search for the “God” particle. I do not remember the
details, but the outcome was very clear. There were two opposing camps of
high-energy physicists with each theory predicting the energy of the “God”
particle. After much hailed experimentation, cost, and public attention,
the energy of the particle was determined, and low-and-behold, its energy did
not support either of two major theories (or any other theory for that
matter). It was an energy altogether different than predicted. I
remember a Nobel prize-winning scientist speaking to commentators saying his
entire life’s work was for nothing, and that he did not know what to do but
retire and go fishing. No physicists had any idea why they were all
wrong. The point is that atheism is a religion in-and-of-itself,
and those who believe in it try to hide behind a science that cannot be tested
easily with tenacious ignorance, and not accept any other idea but their own.
There are false assumptions throughout the article; the most
obvious is that we live in a secular society. Well, if that is true, then
why do 90% of people in surveys in the U.S. say the believe in a God?
The fact is one does not live in a secular society; unless the culture
has been made that way by atheistic socialist doctrine. Religion is
historically an integral part of all cultures. Only by socialist
governments in modern times has religion been removed, degraded, or presumed to
Another false assumption is that the universe is in chaos.
All evidence today is that the universe is remarkably “fine tuned” in a manner
that could not have possible by random occurrences. This is
indisputable! The author, in his ignorance, holds onto the random-chaos
theory, which has been demonstrated otherwise. Why does he do this?
Because he has no other answer, and it trashes all his theories. Every
atheist has a God; it is himself. He will defend that God at all costs.
The only problem that is “self-evident”, is that the framers of the
Constitution failed to define religion. Since the only thing that existed
in their domain at the time was Judeo-Christian, they thought it was
“self-evident” that any religion to be concerned about in their domain was
simply a difference of interpretation within the framework of the Judeo-Christian
ethic. They had no idea of how the world was going to change in the two
hundred years. The concept of an acceptable “religion” needs to be
defined. It goes without saying, that any theocratic governance that
might “…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due
process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws” (Amendment XIV, Section 1.) is not a “religion” under
the Constitution; so it is absurd to suggest that such would be protected by
the Constitution as a “religion”.
The other problem is that Amendment XIV precedes the statement
above with “…nor shall any State…”, meaning that States have the right under
the Constitution to enact laws that are not covered by Congress enacting
others, and that the Supreme Court does not have any right
under the Constitution to create new law by review or judgment. It is
only by repeating this false assumption over and over again and manipulating
the court system to act as if the Supreme Court had the authority to make law
by redefining the scope of a statement in the Constitution that liberals say
the Supreme Court has this power, when in fact it does not.
I normally express my opinion in letters to my congressman in the
form of hypothetical Constitutional Amendments, and limiting the power to the
Supreme Court was one of them.
Reminds me about what the left and right don't get about mental illness. The left's passion is to protect the civil rights of the mentally disturbed --- so they can die with their rights intact. The right's passion is to get the mentally disturbed and their families to take responsibility for their actions, question whether mental disturbance is a myth, and put the psychiatrically disturbed in prison, not hospitals. Both the left and right have contributed to the closing of psychiatric hospitals leading to the tragedy of homelessness.
The medical and treatment
establishments tell us that drug addiction is a brain disease, not an absence
of willpower. Technicolor brain scans are presented as proof, and millions of
dollars are invested in the search for pharmaceutical remedies.
What is unfortunate about this
definition is not that it plays down the willpower dimension of addiction—the
“just say no” injunction was too superficial to be of much help anyway. The
danger instead lies in the black-or-whiteness of both propositions: If
addiction is a brain disease, addicts are mad, sick and defective; if addiction
is a failure of will, users are bad, immoral and weak.
In “The Biology of Desire,” Marc
Lewis, a neuroscientist, takes a less Manichaean approach, arguing that
addiction entails both biological alterations in the user’s brain and changes
in his personal agency. He offers an insightful take on the interaction of mind
and brain against the backdrop of the addict’s life circumstances.
Mr. Lewis is no white-coated lab
shut-in. In his 20s, he consumed vast amounts of alcohol, opiates, psychedelics
and stimulants, an odyssey that he chronicled in “Memoirs of an Addicted Brain”
(2012). In that book and in this one, he writes about bursting
neurotransmitters and sinewy neural circuitry with remarkable passion and
Biology of Desire
By Marc Lewis
PublicAffairs, 238 pages, $26.99
When it comes to nomenclature, Mr.
Lewis prefers “habit” to “addiction”—not to minimize the devastation of what
users can incur but to point up the fact that the biology of habit formation is
relevant to the compulsive use of substances. “The neural circuitry of desire
governs anticipation, focused attention, and behavior . . . ,” he writes. “This
process is grounded in a neurobiological feedback loop that’s present in all
In other words, people who discover
a substance—or an activity, such as gambling—that helps them assuage pain or
elevate their mood will form a strong attachment to it. Repeated behavior
becomes harder to stop over time, though even a strong attachment need not
create an unchangeable pattern. Addiction is “an inevitable feature of the
basic human design,” Mr. Lewis writes. That design revolves around
“neuroplasticity,” the ability of the brain to reorganize itself by forming new
neural pathways and connections in response to modes of thinking and acting as
well as inputs from the environment.
As people repeatedly look forward to
and then experience certain drugs—or other strongly desired forms of pleasure
or relief—the brain adjusts its mechanisms, intensifying the release of
neurotransmitters in the regions involved in processing emotion and motivation.
“Each network of synapses,” Mr. Lewis writes, “is strengthened and refined, so
that the uptake of dopamine gets more selective as rewards are identified and
habits established.” The drug habit is learned more deeply than others, Mr.
Lewis explains, “due to a narrowing tunnel of attention and attraction.”
Competing desires and imperatives get shunted aside or obliterated.
“The Biology of Desire” is not
entirely a survey of brain science. Its middle part is devoted to portraiture,
presenting real people who were once in the grip of an addictive habit, tracing
the reasons for it and, finally, showing how each managed to stop. There is
Natalie, for example, a college student who is drawn to OxyContin and then
heroin because, she says, it “relaxed you by abolishing the sensation of
threat.” Natalie gets arrested and finally realizes the state she is in.
Through meditation she learns to tame her impulses and endure a craving without
giving into it. She also reunites with her mother. The sounds, sights and
experiences that, in her brain, she so tightly links with heroin lose their
The same basic arc applies to other
figures in Mr. Lewis’s portrait gallery: Brian the methamphetamine user, Donna
the opiate addict and Johnny the alcoholic. All these young adults are in some
way broken; all find solace in substances, both licit and illicit. They don’t
want to be addicted, and their self-loathing only intensifies once they believe
they are. But they desperately want immediate relief and so surrender.
All of Mr. Lewis’s case studies end
well or at least optimistically. At the heart of the recoveries are new, more
constructive habits, identities and relationships—and, in the brains of the
subjects, the sculpting of new synaptic patterns. As Mr. Lewis shows, the
physiology behind the addiction process can be intentionally engaged by addicts
to put them on the path to recovery. By exploiting the neuroplastic capacities
of the brain, individuals can develop strategies for self-control.
It may well be, as Mr. Lewis says,
that addiction is a form of normal habit formation. But isn’t it more like a
normal process gone awry? When outcomes are so dire, how is this not a
pathological state? Mr. Lewis is deeply humane in his regard for people trapped
in compulsive habits, so much so that he seems reluctant to impose any rules on
their behavior and ends up treating them more like patients than he might like
to admit. He is big on the so-called Vancouver model in which addicts are
guided to safer drug-using methods and gently encouraged to get themselves
together. But he de-emphasizes the importance of behavioral shaping through
external incentives and sanctions, which are at the core of drug treatments
that divert addicts from the criminal-justice system.
“The Biology of Desire” says a lot
about the brain mechanisms underpinning addiction but, to its credit, does not
stop there. With minor exceptions, we do not help addicts (and they do not help
themselves) by ministering directly to their brains. As Mr. Lewis stresses
throughout this unorthodox but enlightening book, people learn to be addicts,
and, with effort, they can learn not to be addicts, too.
Dr. Satel is a psychiatrist and
resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is co-author, with
Scott Lilienfeld, of “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless